Fire has wrecked the tombs of four Baganda-region kings at the Kasubi tombs UNESCO World Heritage Site near Kampala, Uganda. The destruction of the tombs, on the 16th March, thought by many to be the result of arson, has led to mass protests and a highly charged political situation. Supporters of Baganda King Ronald Mutebi are said to have blocked the President, Yoweri Museveni, from visiting the tombs to assess the damage. In the resulting unrest, two people are thought to have been killed. The Baganda kingdom has had uneasy relations with Ugandas central government; the BBC has reported that a territorial dispute led to riots last year.
The Kasubi tombs were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2001. The site has been an important centre of religious activity for the Baganda since it was established at the end of the nineteenth century. The Baganda belong to the Bantu speaking people and date their political civilisation back to the 13th century A.D.
UNESCOs Director-General, Irina Bokova has expressed her sorrow and called for calm: "The Tombs of Buganda Kings at Kasubi is a World Heritage site of great cultural and spiritual significance. The destruction of this site is a tragic loss for the whole world," Ms Bokova said. "I am also deeply distressed to learn that two people lost their lives in protests that followed the fire, and hope there will be a swift return to calm at this difficult time. I would like to assure the people of Uganda that UNESCO stands ready to mobilize its experts to help local authorities assess the damage and plan remedial action at Kasubi."